Ingredient sales up, prepackaged dinners down…

Another story that caught my eye this week was one from the Observer, in which Rebecca Seal reported on figures that suggest a significant move away from prepackaged food. Some very interesting stats include:

  • The sale of convenience food rose by 300% in the past decade… Asda says sales of economy white potatoes have risen by an astonishing 3,017% in a year
  • At Morrisons, sales of the ingredients for Sunday roasts are up 44% on the year
  • At Asda, beef kidney sales are up 74% and pork shoulder 58%
  • When Sainsbury’s featured basic beef chunks on an in-store recipe card, purchases rose by 2,000%.

Seal attributes this to the efforts of celebrity chefs creating more interest in cooking; this may well be the case. However at this stage the trend could go two ways. Either cost pressures will dissuade many consumers from experimenting with new foods and cooking as a result of job pressure or being unemployed, or people will seek budget relief by attempting to cook more. The issue lies in whether people percieve cooking as cheaper than prepared meals and how far health affects the purchasing decision.

There will also no doubt be a strong reaction from the packaged food industry which will target marketing efforts at this very trend towards healthier food, particularly in the credit crunch. FMCG companies frequently up their marketing at times of slowdown in an attempt to drive market share, so this could well affect the balance of power.

I for one, will keep trying to find cheap ways of preparing my own food.


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